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Inis Mor - Shared with New-found friends

May 9, 2009

Rain pelting my window woke me at half past six. However, by the time I was showered, dressed and out, it had begun to clear. The sun was making a valiant attempt to find its way through the clouds. A quick good morning to Joe & Maura through the kitchen door and I was off to photograph the cliff area beyond their house and a bit Northward. I love walking that area at first light. There is silence save for the sea and the cows grazing on the cliff's edge.

I was able to use the fresh light and shadow to get some excellent photos of various rock formations, tidal pools and the ruin of a herder shack. I headed back toward Man of Aran around half past eight. As I headed up the drive to the main house, I came across Kris & Jorge just as they were preparing to leave. They asked if I would take a quick picture of the two of them. I was happy to oblige. After saying my goodbyes to Kris & Jorge, I went into find a hot cuppa tea.  Dave & Karen came in for breakfast at nine o'clock. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast. My eggs and bacon were cooked just right. The breakfast breads were fresh and warm. It seems that every time I stay at Man of Aran, they give me the table in front of the Hearth. I have often joked that they should but a brass plaque on it that reads "The Cowboys Ate Here". After finishing up our breakfast, we spent a few moments chatting with the other couple who were staying. They were visiting from a small village outside of Paris, France.


We had asked Maura to ring up for a van to take us into Kilronan. John Flaherty picked us up in short order. Not only did he take us into Kilronan, he also gave Karen and Dave a grand tour. Because of Karen's hip problems, Dun Aengus & the Black Fort were not viable options this time over. John did drive them up towards Dun Aengus so that they might see it. He then took the side road to Na Seacht Teampall, the Seven Churches. As he drove down the side road, he pointed out that they had just had a film crew on the island filming a "major production". That certainly gives us something to ponder. John let us out at the gate to the Seven Churches and then went to turn his van around and wait. Just outside the gate, we encountered and Aran man and his dogs. He was standing with a pike pole and his bicycle. Karen felt compelled to take his picture. I had to photograph his dog. I think that Karen & Dave enjoyed their wanderings through Na Seacht Teampall.  Seven Churches is an ancient Monastic settlement. It has two churches and several outbuildings along with ancient gravestones and an ogham stone. Once we were through at Na Seacht Teampall, John took us over the top Coast road to show them the Lighthouse. He then turned around and went back down the Coast road towards Kilronan. He stopped at the Seal Colony so that we could get some pictures. The seals looked to be enjoying the sunshine that had made its way out and chased away the rains.

John left us off in Kilronan after arranging to pick us up at three to bring us back to the Cottages. We wandered down the Aran Sweater market and spent some time choosing scarves and socks for a few of Karen's people back home. I found a great deal on the Aran Sweaters and wanted to pick one up for a friend. I didn't know her size though so I called her up in Idaho. Yes, it was quite early but, after a brief moment of panic, she was quite happy to help me out with a size. Karen and Dave were darlings for helping me choose the colors and pattern. After the shopping was done, we walked a short ways down toward te Pier hoping to find the Tourist Office open so that Karen could pick up some brochures. They  were closed for lunch. The sign on the door indicated that they would be opening in a few minutes. I had my doubts but left Karen and Dave resting on a stone wall whilst I took some photographs of the boats in the harbor, the Ponies harnessed in their traps and caught up with some of the Jarveymen.  After giving them ten minutes to open, the three of us decided that lunch was in order. I took them to my favorite Fish & Chips place for lunch. I can never remember its name but it sits right across from the American Bar and has much better food for less money. A bit of a laugh whilst ordering came when Dave ordered Cod for Karen and was told that there was no Cod and that she could have the Pollock instead. Dave wasn't sure that was a good choice but I assured him that she would enjoy the Pollock. I knew that the Pollock would be fresh caught form the morning runs. I also knew that even though they showed Cod on their menu board, it was rarely available.  Karen did enjoy her Pollock and the heaping amount of fries which came with it. After wards, I talked them into sharing a piece of decadent chocolate cake. We finished up just as John was pulling up to collect us.

After John dropped us off at the Cottages and Dave & Karen turned in for a rest, I grabbed my camera gear and headed back up toward the Na Seacht Teampall to get pictures along the way which I hadn't been able to get whilst in the van. I thoroughly enjoyed my walk. I photographed some Thatched cottage ruins, horses, donkeys, cats and windows of ancient dwellings long inhabited by the spirits of those who had lived within the walls. along the way back, I became puzzled by the large number of drivers who would smile and wave as the drove past. Don't get me wrong, I am used to the friendliness of the Aran people. It was the fact that they seemed to be laughing at something just out of my periphery which I found puzzling. I happened to turn quickly enough to finally see what everyone found so amusing. I had apparently become the Pied Piper of Inis Mor, as I was leading a small parade consisting of a black lab, a West Highland Terrier and a Marmalade Tabby cat. As I turned fully toward them, they drifted apart as if they hadn't been following me at all. The Tabby jumped up on a stone wall and the light reflected made for a perfect shot.
I returned to the cottages around half past six and, after washing up, went up to visit with Joe & Maura whilst they prepared dinner. We had chosen to eat there, which was definitely a splurge. Maura is a world class chef. I always try to have at least one evening meal there. I always enjoy Joe's salads, as everything in it is hand-picked from his organic gardens.

After dinner, Maura & Joe started Man of Aran on the television in the front parlor. Neither Karen nor Dave had seen it. Man of Aran was a fictional documentary on life on the Aran Islands released in 1934 by Robert J. Flaherty. The Man of Aran Cottage was built for one of the interior scenes. I had an early ferry to catch the following morning so I wasn't up too late.

Tomorrow...Sunshine.... Promises... and a meeting of friends at Bunratty Lodge








Jul 23, 2009 @ 3:53 PM | 0 comment(s)

TUESDAY, JULY 21, 2009
Inis Mor - Home to my Soul - Where Nobody is a Stranger For Long


May 8, 2009 -

An early start with the intention of a walk to the castle before breakfast and my journey to the west coast was stymied by the downpour that greeted me as I stepped outside. Instead, I went back up to my room and finished gathering my belongings into my suitcase. After another delicious cooked to order breakfast in the Gleeson House restaurant, I lucked out and managed to load Peg up without a drop of rain. However, once I closed the Hatchback, the deluge began again. I checked out and began my Journey to the West coast and my rendezvous with Karen (youngka) and Dave at Rossaveel. We were meeting there to spend a few days on Inis Mór together. I was really looking forward to the meet-up, having been email friends with Karen for several years.

From Roscommon to Rossaveel. I tried to stay to the back roads so that I could stop for photo ops at leisure. Just outside of Moylough, a small village in North East Galway, I cam across a fantastic Ruin, MoyloughCastle. It is a 13th century Hall House just off the N63 road. In front of the Castle was a good sized Graveyard in which I spent a good hour taking photographs. I even startled a Rabbit which had been sleeping in the tall grasses of the older end of the cemetery.

Onward towards
Galway once again, I stopped to photograph an Abbey ruin set off in the near distance. As I started to pull back out onto the N63, I saw a sign directing me to the AbbeyKnockmoyCemetery. As I turned down the small lane to the cemetery, I realized that the Abbey ruins were adjacent. I parked and walked the Cemetery admiring the carved headstones and noting that most were from the early 1900s to present day. The gate to the Abbey was locked and I was not inclined to climb over the walls to get to it. Instead, I was content to photograph it from the perimeter, thankful for an excellent telephoto lens. Abbey Knockmoy is a Cistercian Abbey founded in 1190 by the King of Connacht, Cathal O'Connor who was interred there in 1224.  As I headed back down the main road, leading to the N63 and Galway, I came across the well preserved ruins of a Mill House. I was intrigued by the Gears and mechanisms which stood outside the house itself.  I thought it was a terrific side trip. I will be back again to explore the area more thoroughly. Perhaps, I can find out who holds the key to the Abbey and be able to get in to take some interior pictures.

Onward once again toward
Galway and the dreaded congestion and roundabouts. The roundabouts were a bit dicey, as the rains had returned and the roads were a bit slick. However, I made it through them all without incident and was soon on my way towards Oughteraard. 

I stopped in Oughteraard to visit the bank, which I found closed for lunch. since I definitely needed to use the bank before I headed for Inis Mor, I took the lunch hour to explore the town and use the internet service in the Tourist Office to print out my boarding pass for the ferry. I even had time to mail out a few promised postcards.

On into Maam's Cross and southwest to Rossaveel. I was thrilled by the wonderful weather, clouds scudding across the bright blue sky as I journeyed onward to the coast. To my delight, I came across several of the
Connemara ponies as I made my way. as I photographed them, the wind picked up, tossing their manes. Even with the Pony stops, I still arrived in Rossaveel far to early for the Ferry. What else could I do but backtrack towards Galway and make a stop at one of my favorite shops, Stan Dun? I love to wander through all of the knits and the fine crystal. On most days, I would find the café open, as well. However, that is during high season and it was not open. Finished with my browsing and with no hot tea available, I headed back toward Rossaveel, even though I would be an hour and a half early for the Ferry.

I arrived at the Ferry terminal and parked in the lot directly south. As I walked through the lot toward the exit, I noticed another car pulling in and a man getting out of the driver side. As I passed, I wondered if that might be Karen's husband, Dave. As he said nothing when I passed, I continued on toward the Ferry Office to pickup my tickets. As I was coming out of the office, the same gentleman was coming toward the office. As I stepped out the door, He called me by name. It was indeed Karen's husband, Dave. We went back to their car and visited until it was time to board the Ferry.  It truly felt as if we had been friends forever. I hadn't had a thought that it would be any other way.

The Ferry ride over wasn't too bad. although a few of the swells slammed us fairly brusquely into the bay. We made good time, arriving in Kilronan at
half past seven. We ambled up the pier and picked a driver out of the van queue to take us to Man of Aran cottages. I was tickled by the apparent delight that Karen found in the landscape of Inis Mór. Joe Gill was our van driver. As we went along, he would point out things of interest. That is he was until he realized that I knew almost as much about the island and her ruins. He said I could talk and he would drive.

We arrived at Man of Aran just as Maura Wolfe, the proprietress, was coming out of the Gatehouse lodgings, which were to be our home for the next few nights. She had been dropping of extra towels and turning up the heat for us. The Gate house was a new addition which had just been completed on my last visit. The rooms are spacious and warm. the bed had plenty of pillows and extra blankets. It was very comfortable.

Dave & Karen, tired from their long day of travel, turned in as soon as we arrived. I went up to the main house for a cuppa and some catching up with Maura. I always find sitting and talking to her and Joe, her husband, to be a great source of contentment and joy. It isn't what we talk about so much as sense of belonging. As we were catching up, one of her other guests walked through the dining area. As she passed through, she heard me mention
Phoenix. She asked if I was from Phoenix and I said that I was from Tucson. It turns out that she was a member of the IrelandYes forum. She had come to Inis Mór and Man of Aran Cottages after I had made the suggestion. Small world that there were three IrelandYes forum members or Irregulars as we call ourselves at Man of Aran at the same time. Maura was delighted to see the connections.

I was in bed by
ten o'clock and looking forward to a day on the island with Karen and Dave. Maura and I had spent some time discussing the best tour. I fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves just as the storm broke overhead.

Tomorrow...Seven Churches...Sweater shopping... Paws 'n Purrs


Jul 21, 2009 @ 9:11 PM | 0 comment(s)

Rambling 'Round Roscommon & Deeper Twine The Family Roots
I awoke to blue skies and sunshine, which lasted just long enough for me to shower, dress and make it half way through my breakfast. What's a little rain when there are roads to be rambled? A delicious breakfast of cooked to order eggs, bacon & tomato and a wide selection of fruits, yogurt, breakfast breads, juices and porridge. I always walk away stuffed to the gills, especially at Gleeson's. Funny though that after eating all of that, I am hungry again a few hours later.

Off I set, full stomach and a contented heart, for Strokestown Park House & Gardens, Lough Key and Lough Arrow. Those were my primary destinations. I had faith in the Faeries to lead me to others of which I hadn't thought.

As I made my way downstairs, I caught a glimpse of sky and sun once again outside the window. However, by the time I made it out to the car, the skies were once again multi hues of grey and a drizzle was quickly nudging its way to a full rain. All was well as I had my Eddie Bauer weatherproof jacket and my Cowboy's Brawley (Cowboy Hat). Off I went to Strokestown and the Gardens which I was hoping, despite the rains and cold, would be in good bloom. Have I mentioned that I am an eternal optimist?

I arrived at Strokestown, only to find that it was still closed. No worries, onward toward Boyle and some time spent wandering the Abbey grounds. The Faeries must have had other ideas, s it began to pour in sheets just as I turned into the Abbey. Still undaunted, I pointed Peg toward Lough Key & Lough Arrow. Since I would have to backtrack anyhow, I first headed for Lough Arrow and its over look. I overshot the turn in for the Lough Arrow overlook. Undaunted, I headed toward Ballinafad planning on backtracking. As I pulled off to turn towards Ballinafad, the ruins of BallinafadCastle caught my attention. BallinafadCastle is an awesome ruin to muddle around. It is well preserved. It dates back to the time of the Plantations, which would be 16th century. What makes it such a treasure is that it was designed to look like a 13th century keep. It is built in a rectangular shape with 3/4 round towers at each corner.

As I grabbed my camera and climbed out of Peg, the grey skies became a glorious blue with clouds scudding across. It was an easy walk to the Castle, just a few yards from where I parked. I stopped a few moments to chat with the cows in the adjoining pasture. They seemed most interested in my Cowboy 's Brawley. My good weather lasted about ten minutes. It then ended abruptly with a gust of wind and a gusher of rain. Back again to Peg and the dry interior. Onward through Ballinafad and to the Lough Arrow overlook.

At the Lough Arrow overlook, once again the skies cleared. I was intent on photographing the Lough when I heard a disgusted snort from behind me and off to my right. I turned to find myself staring into dark, soft eyes which sparkled with mischief. I had attracted the attention of a horse in the neighboring paddock. He had wandered over to say hello and see if I might have a sweet bit for him. He seemed quite happy with the bit of scone which I offered. He was pure white and, being allowed a moment of fancy, I might say that he was that mythical, rarely seen beast, the unicorn. He had that air about him, you see. A few snaps of the Lough and horse and I was on my way to the Lough Key overlook. 
Lough Key has a fabulous Forest Park, which on a good day makes for a full day of hiking and outdoor fun. Since the rains had begun once again, I settled for capturing some shots of the "Gaelic Chieftain" sculpture erected at the Lough Key overlook to honor the Battle of Curlew Pass. This sculpture, design and created by Maurice Harron, himself a Derryman, in 1999, is life size, twisted metals, which can be seen for miles on the main Dublin-Sligo road. It was very mesmerizing.

Onward again back towards Strokestown and the Famine museum' Gardens. I was hoping that they would be fairly devoid of people, as it was a weekday. I inquired in the Gift shop about the quality of the blooms. The clerk said that blooms could be found, if one looked carefully. She then took me out to the garden and passed me through the turnstile. I love the StrokestownGarden. It is a massive walled garden with one off England's longest Herbaceous borders. Even on a grey and wet day, it is somewhat better protected because of its walls. With the exception of the first ten or fifteen minutes. I had the gardens all to myself for the two hours which I roamed. I did indeed find some blossoms, including a couple of unique blossoms which I cannot name. For those who haven't been, Strokestown is, in my opinion, the best Famine MuseumIreland has to offer. When the weather cooperates, as it seemed to do within a week of my departure, the formal garden is a riot of colors and the farm gardens are bursting with produce and herbs waiting to be plucked a used in the kitchen.  Into the Café for a quick cuppa to warm me up and a Faery cake to hold me until dinner. I do enjoy their Faery cakes. Once again, I forgot to ask for the recipe! A few small gifts picked up in the Gift shop and I was on my way back to Roscommon town.

On my way back, I stopped to photograph a monument at the Roscommon/Elphin turn-off. The monument commemorates those of the Irish Republican Army, Óglaigh na hÉireann,  who gave their lives in the War of Independence. "SAOIRSE", Irish for "freedom", catches your eye as you go through the gate and into the courtyard area. Next to catch your eye is the giant stone "book" which lists all those who gave up their lives for Irish Independence. The focal point is the three soldiers, looking off into different directions, who tower over the monument at its center. There is also a monument to Padraig Pearse, a bas relief of a side profile etched into stone. A fitting, timeless tribute to the Cause's loudest voice.  I had been wanting to stop there on each of my visits but we always had some place else to be. I was glad that I was able to stop and spend some time there this trip. I could feel an energy and a strength there. It was quiet, dignified and purposeful.

Back on the road and into Roscommon town, where I parked the car at Gleeson's and wandered off to walk the town. I usually find some amazing window boxes to photograph in Roscommon town. This trip I couldn't find any. I wandered into Gleeson's new shop, a Epicurean delight! It was there that I found "gold" in the form of Roscommon Chocolate Company. A transplanted Californian set up shop in the old Ballinderry schoolhouse at Fourmile House. I fell in love with the lambs done in chocolate. They were created to honor the Roscommon Lamb Festival held each April. I also came home with chocolate hedgehogs. I did a bit of gift shopping, picking up jam for my Daddy, chocolate hedgehogs for my best friend Eve, chocolate lambs for my grand-nephew and several bags of roasted pistachios. One bag for me and two for gifts.

Back in my room, I rested and went through my photos, deleting those that didn't come out quite right and making notes in my journal for those I would use on my various sites. I showered up and went in search of a cuppa. I had my dinner, fish & chips, which was light, non-greasy and delicious. The batter they use comes out light and crisp. The fish, moist and flaky, is something I can still imagine the taste of if I close my eyes. After dinner, I went in to the lobby and sat by the fire with a glass of wine. I was waiting for Brigid Lawless, my second cousin on my Gran's side, to join me for dessert. We had been trading emails for the better part of a year and a half. I would email her pictures and ask for names. She would nae those she could and send me back pictures for which she needed names. It was she who had given me the lead for the Kanes, Rices, Murphy folk in Armagh. Though I had never seen a picture of her, I knew her as soon as she walked into the lobby. However, she walked straight past me. We both laughed and hugged. She said that she was sure that she would know me the moment she saw me.

We had a grand time sipping tea and trading stories. Some where sweet and others were dark but it is all part of the tapestry of Family. She had brought with her pictures that she had of her "Canadian cousins" taken whilst the y were visiting her childhood home in Birmingham, England. She laughed when I told her that I had thought it strange for her to travel from Birmingham to Roscommon just for tea. She had long since moved from England to her husband's home area of Athlone here in Co. Roscommon.  The photos she had brought were of my Aunt, Isabelle, and my Uncle, Bryan, when they were close to school age. There has been much argument between my father and Uncle, Tim, over the location at which those photos were taken. Tim swears that they were never in England at that age. However, Brigid has strong memories of them being there. My father as always said that they were in England, as well. We had a good two hour visit and then I walked her over to meet her husband at Doorly's. The proprietor, John, was happy to see one of the cowboys had come back. It had been 3 years since my last visit and still he poured a Jameson, tall and neat, and set it in front of me. This is why Roscommon feels like home. No matter how long you are away it still feels like only a few moments have passed.

Tomorrow.Roscommon to Rossaveel .byroads..... chance encounters
Jun 24, 2009 @ 10:07 AM | 0 comment(s)

TUESDAY, JUNE 23, 2009
All Roads Lead to Roscommon...Or so it Would Seem

Goodbye to Donegal and into Yeats country, I was off on another wet & windy drive towards Westport, my intended destination for the evening. Intended maybe but best intentions sometimes go awry.

I had planned to stop just outside of Ballyshannon at the Five Oaks Ranch, a Dude ranch set in the wilds of Donegal. Yes, Dude ranch, American Quarter Horses and Appaloosas, western saddles, a bunkhouse facade, everything that recalls the silver screen days of Roy & Gene. Unfortunately the rains increased and any thought of a trail ride went by the wayside. I will shelve that adventure for the next time I visit. There is always a next time, to be sure.

Onwards towards Sligo with Ben Bulben growing larger and more mysterious with every mile closer. I stopped at Creevykeel, a court tomb, just outside of Cliffoney. Creevykeel has to be one of the finest Court Tombs in Ireland. I had passed it several times without being able to stop. I spent a good deal of time there on this stop to make up for my neglecting it in the past. It sits right off the main road and has a small car park. Creevykeel has been dated to the Neolithic period, which is 4,000 to 2,500 B.C. It was excavated in the mid 1930s.  I was amazed and awed by the courtyard area at Creevykeel. It seemed so vast compared to some in which I have stood. There was a vital energy which seemed to hum up through the soles of my boots and through my blood.  I felt a deep and abiding connection standing there in the center of the courtyard where untold numbers of rituals had been performed. Rituals to welcome each quarter of the year, to celebrate plantings and harvestings, births and deaths. I am not sure for how long I stood at the center, time seemed to blur, the rain was somehow fitting and all outside sounds faded. I  hope that I captured some of that energy and grace in my pictures. Indeed, I felt guided in the shots I took and the angles at which I shot them.

Off then from Creevykeel and towards Sligo once again. I stopped to take a picture of Ben Bulben, shrouded at its top in thick, heavy grey clouds. Ben Bulben, even shrouded in clouds or perhaps because of it, is majestic and magnetic. It seems to pull you towards it even though you know you have other places to go.  Just before Drumcliffe, I saw a sign for Glencar waterfall. Hearing the call of the water faeries, off I went on a merry adventure. Along the way to Glencar, I came upon an abandoned farmhouse. It had been left to the elements along time before I chance upon it. Yet the door still retained a faded blue hue, as if to welcome its people home once again. As I so often do, I stopped to consider the story of those who had resided within its walls and to the circumstances of their leaving.
My first view of GlencarLake and the sheep along her shores had me sighing with contentment. Here, was home ground though it had been some years since last I explore Glencar and her environs. Lambs frolicked oblivious to the rain and ewes lay at rest. It rained up until I parked Peg in the parking lot for Glencar waterfall and exited the car. Then, it was as if someone flipped a switch and the rains stopped, abruptly. For those of you who haven't found Glencar yet on your visits, Glencar is 50 feet tall and after, or during, the rains, is even more raucous and vibrant.  Glen car was made famous by W.B. Yeats in his poem, 'The Stolen Child'.  It is a pleasant walk along a the river's edge to the waterfall itself. You don't need to climb the steps, should you have mobility issues. The waterfall is magnificent even without getting five feet from it.  A pleasant hour was spent taking photographs and absorbing the ionic charge from the waterfall.  Then it was back down the walk, stopping to say hello to a ewe and her lamb with whom I crossed paths and back to my car.

Onward once again towards Sligo, where, after several wrong turns and u-turns, I found my way to the N4 heading in the right direction. My intentions were to come into Westport from the North and do Achill island on my way in for the evening, which would prevent the backtracking I avoid at all costs. For the second time this day, good intentions went awry. It was a beautiful drive, the sun popping in and out from behind the clouds, and then I came into Ballina. Ballina itself is a wonderful town. The traffic and her one way streets is what causes the headaches. As is my habit, I pulled over and parked along the canal to take a picture of St. Muredach's Cathedral and to fold in my passenger side mirror. I always tuck in my mirror going into larger towns and cities, as it makes it much less likely that I will strike something with it. That would stand me well sooner than I had thought possible. As I said, traversing the roads of Ballina can sometimes require a strong will and a grim determination. I managed to get turned around numerous times whilst trying to find the upper road towards the coast and Westport. As I was coming back into town, I noticed a car parked well out into the traffic lane. Just as I said to myself, "someone is going to hit that car", the gold Toyota two cars ahead did just that, knocking its mirror loose in the process. I was amazed that they hadn't stopped to see if they had damaged the car they had hit. I tried to catch up, planning on grabbing the license number and, hopefully, find my way back to the car which had been hit.  Traffic bottle necked downtown and we came to a stop. I was able to grab the first part of the plate when a lady tapped on my window. It was the owner of the car which had been struck. She insisted that I had hit her car. She would no listen nor look at the Toyota, which was now pulling away, with its mirror dangling. She simply said "I have your plate and that will do". A bit rattled, I took the familiar road towards Tobercurry, deciding to leave Achill for the morning or another time.

It was smooth sailing from Tobercurry to Westport. As I drew closer to Westport, I saw the turn off for Roscommon. My heart told me to turn for "home" and never mind Westport. Having given up my reservation for the night in Roscommon and deciding to go to Westport instead, I pressed on towards Westport. Once in Westport, I drove in circles for close to an hour, or perhaps it only seemed so, before finding Linden Hall B&B.  I had stayed there once before in 2004 and had enjoyed my stay. I was looking forward to staying there again. I arrived completely stressed out and was given the key to my room. Perhaps it was the being stressed, which I rarely am in Ireland, but I was none too satisfied with the room. The room I had stayed in before was well appointed and spacious. The room I was provided was small and dreary. Determined to make the best of it, I went downstairs and asked the proprietress where I could get a good bite to eat and a dram of whiskey. We chatted for a bit and I mentioned that I had almost turned toward Roscommon instead of coming on to Westport, as I needed to feel a the sense of home that being in Roscommon provided. She graciously gave me my out by suggesting that there was still enough daylight left to travel there should I be able to get in touch with my friends. a phone call made, my goodbyes said and Peg (my car) and I were off towards Roscommon.

As I crossed into Co. Roscommon, I felt as if a huge millstone had been taken off my back. The roads, familiar as my own roads in Arizona, pulled me on towards Roscommon town, into town centre, around the square, down the alley way and into the guest parking at Gleeson's Townhouse. Even more stress disappeared when I saw Mary sitting at the reception desk. When she saw me, she was up and out of her chair with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.  Nonplussed by my early arrival, she set me up in one of the front rooms. The front rooms were just being refurbished on my last visit. I was enthralled by the french country writing desk and the matching bed and nightstands. The bed was incredibly comfy with plenty of pillows to sink into. Though the bathroom is small, it has a shower in which I can turn around! There is also a hot pot and fixings for tea or coffee and some sweet treats.

I went downstairs to gather my gear from the car. On my way out, Mary told me she would bring out a tea tray and we could visit whilst she did her day's end papers. I smiled all the way to the car knowing that a tea tray meant one of Mary's delicious scones. I hauled up my camera gear and Mary had one of the girls from the restaurant bring up my suitcase. A good thing, really, as stairs, heavy suitcases and my knees are a recipe for disaster! I spent about twenty minutes in the reception area, enjoying my tea and scones, visiting with Mary and chatting with a couple from Malta. Though originally from Roscommon, they had settled in Malta a while back and come home once a year to visit family. After finishing m tea and scones, I left Mary to finish up her dailies and went to the guest computer to check my emails and send my parents a note letting them know my change of plans. To my surprise, there was an email there from my Gran's niece, the one with whom I had been corresponding for over a year as we pieced together our family connection. In her email, she said that she wanted to get together with me whilst I was in Ireland. She asked that I drop her an email advising her where I might be. I sent off an email to let her know I was at Gleeson's in Roscommon town, thinking as I did so that she wouldn't possibly travel from England for a visit. I finished up my emails, went up to my room and ran a brush through my hair and went back downstairs planning on a trip to Doorly's for a dram of Jameson. 

Another good intention goes awry, Mary was having wine with the owner of Jackson's, a restaurant and Guesthouse across the square.  She introduced us and poured me a glass of wine. After a short while, she left to go pick up Eammon and left Michael and I to talk until their return.  Upon his arrival, Eammon grabbed me up in a crushing bear hug and expressed his delight in my early arrival. another glass of wine poured and I was drawn into a conversation on how to better promote Roscommon's restaurants. It was a pleasant way to end a day that was by turns magical, mystical and frustrating. The Faeries had wanted me in Roscommon town, of that I am sure.

Never question the wisdom of Faeries.......

Tomorrow.......along the back roads in Roscommon and family ties established..
Jun 23, 2009 @ 1:08 PM | 0 comment(s)

SUNDAY, JUNE 21, 2009
Into the Wet & Windy Wild ~ Promises Kept
May 5, 2009 ~

I awoke to a steady rhythm of rain & wind against my windows.  One look out to where the bay should be visible and I knew that my full day plans of hiking the Sliabh Liag would be wet & wild, as well as a bit of a challenge.

I dressed in my jeans, heaviest turtleneck and my waterproof arait hikers and went down to breakfast. On a normal day, the sunroom is a fabulous place to have breakfast, as you have a great view across the bay the Maghera strand and the
AssarancaFalls. On this day, you could see no further than the edge of the road. Fog and rain having made Loughros peninsula its own island. Bernadette had turned on a space heater next to my table. That along with the copious amounts of hot tea I was getting into the habit of drinking made short work of the damp chill trying to work its way into my bones.

Bernadette, bless her, offered up alternatives to my outdoor plans. "This isn't a fit day to be out and about at all!" says Bernadette, "Perhaps a visit to
DonegalTown and the shops there instead?"  Rain & sleet be damned, I wouldn't be deterred from my original plans. After all, it was only rain and wind. I have been out in much worse. Off I set for Killybegs and then the Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) cliffs. Just after turning onto the Killybegs road, I spotted a sign that read "Waterfall - Maghera Strand". I made a right turn and headed towards the falls that I had seen from the sunroom and my bedroom window.  A good twenty minutes later I came to a stop at AssarancaFalls. They are even more mesmerizing up close.  I am sure that on a clear or at least dry day, there are many people visiting the falls. It is the gift of stormy days to allow only those brave and foolish enough to be out in it the experiences which can only be enhance by the elements themselves. I spent almost an hour there taking photos. I am especially fond of the shots in which I incorporated the bridge in the foreground.

I finished up and headed back out to the Killybegs road ever mindful of my goal, Sliabh League, itself. It called me as the Sirens lured the sailors. In Carrick, I followed the signs down toward Teelin and the Slieve League Cliffs. As I drove along, I became aware of a great rushing sound. The River Glenn, due to the heavy rains, was swollen to almost seven feet in some places and rushing towards the sea. I stopped in the parking area at the Salmon leap and ventured out into the rain to capture the cascading waters and the gorse which bordered it. After tramping along its trail for fifteen minutes taking photos from many angles, I climbed back into the car and headed for Sliabh Liag.  I stopped in the lower parking area to capture some shots of the rain spray being blown vertically up the cliffs. Both the rain & wind were beginning to pick up. I was surprised to find the gate open allowing access to the road up to the upper parking lot. They sometimes close it when the weather is particularly rough. I was surprised, as I drove up the road, to find that there have been improvements made to the road since I last navigated it. There are more pullouts, it has been paved and it appears to have been widened. Of course, there is still the errant sheep which bolts across the road so mind that you drive prudently.  Pulling into the upper lot, I was surprised to find another car in the lot. Someone else besides me was undeterred by the sheeting, diagonal rains and the gusting winds. I spent an hour and a half absorbing and photographing the Sliabh Liag in all her storm veiled mystery. I hiked to the summit and down again fully cognizant of my own mortality. There is nothing between you and being blown off the cliffs except for fence posts and horse fence. To some, the fence would provide a sense of comfort and security. I, having experienced crashing through such a fence on horseback a time or twenty, had no false sense of security. I hiked back down to my car and started back down toawrd Carrick, thinking that a good pot of tea would be the perfect reward for completing my hike and my photo session. As I drove down the Sliabh League road and out the gate, I encountered one ram who seemed determined to stay in front of me. Most sheep will veer off once they determine your direction of travel. This particular ram had no such desire. If I zigged so did he. So it went for a quarter mile until he found a patch of grass that caught his attention. 

After leaving my road buddy happily grazing on the roadside, I again focused on finding a hot cuppa. I recalled seeing a tea and craft shop as I headed up toward the cliffs. Ti Linn is a hiker's dream. They offer a great selection of hot beverages, breads and pastries and even a small menu of sandwiches, wraps and soups. I ordered my pot of tea and a piece of "Death by Chocolate" cake. The tea was welcome for chasing the chill. The cake was dense and moist. It had been heated and served with a dollop of sweet cream and drizzled with raspberry sauce and raspberries.  The true treasure at Ti Linn is, in my opinion, the proprietor, Paddy. He not only pitches in the tea shop an mans the cash register at the craft shop. He also leads archeological walking tours of the Sliabh Liag and hosts workshops.  I had a wonderful time visiting with him. He recommended two points of interest that were off the beaten track, a court tomb and a hidden cove on the silver strand.

After saying my goodbyes to Paddy and promising to return for one of his walks and one of his lectures, I set off for An Clochán Mór, the court tomb. As Paddy described it, a court tomb resembles a lobster in its structure with its courtyard being the area in between the "arms" and the burial area being under the thicker stone stacked body of the tomb. You do have to be looking for it, as it isn't well marked. All the better, as it is still in pristine shape. The parking area is only big enough for two cars. You access it via a trail through sheep paddocks. As I exited my car, the sheep in the adjoining pasture greeted me with a riotous sheep song. It takes only five minutes to reach the Court tomb. Time seems immaterial once you are standing in the courtyard of the tomb. It had been raining as I approached An Clochán Mór. The rains seemed to hold off as I photographed the site. It was just me, the sheep and the sense of an ancient presence. A truly magical experience.

After leaving the court tomb, I pointed Peg toward Malainn Beag and the  silverstrand cove. It was just down the road from the court tomb that I spotted a tweed shop. It was there that I fulfilled a six year promise. I have an elder friend who, for the past six years, has asked for only one thing. That I bring him a piece of Donegal. His family all come from the Wet & Wild coastal area of Donegal. He, himself, has never seen Donegal or any of
Ireland for that matter. He never shall, as his health prevents him from making long trips. I promised him that on this visit, I would bring him back something of Donegal. I am adverse to paying for dirt and feel that a bit of soil in a baggie is quite chintzy. I thought to find him a bit of Donegal tweed. Something which he could wear and feel his heritage in every fiber. I settled on a hat, similar to one worn by Bob Denver when he played Gilligan, only in a rich dark Donegal tweed. I felt that would stand him better than a bit of dirt.

An Tra Ban, the Silverstrand, on Malainn Beag, is said to be one of the finest beaches in
Ireland. I can honestly say that getting to it is not for the faint of heart nor weak of limb. I tried to count the stairs leading down to the sandy floor of the cove. I gave up when I became enthralled by the snails slowly working their way up and down the hand rails which run the length of the stairs. again, due to the rains, I was the only human around for miles. My only companions were seabirds and sheep. I found yet another waterfall, again a side benefit to all of the rain, cutting its way down the far face of the cove. I sat on a rock for a half hour watching the waves, feeling the rain and salt spray mix. I made my way back up to the car park, thankful for the bench at the half way point which allowed me to catch my breath and take in this amazing cove from another angle.

After that, it was back out to the main road, having to backtrack due to a road closure, and on towards Glencolumbcille.  It was fairly late when I arrived in Glencolumbcille so I didn't stop but for a moment to take a picture as I was coming in to the village. I continued on towards
GlengeshPass and on to Ardara. The rains picked up as I began the twisting drive up to GlengeshPass. I took advantage of each pullout to capture the every changing beauty of the pass at every turn. Even in the rain or maybe because of it, GlenGeshPass had an ethereal quality. I stopped at the top of the Pass, leaving Peg in the pullout and ventured out into the rains to take photographs of the waterfalls cutting new crevasses into the hillsides. I also said a prayer for all those who travel the pass at the statue of Mary.  Someday I hope to actually see the GlengeshPass in sunlight. I have always traversed it in the grey and wet.

I ventured into Ardara and parked in the riverside car park to go in search of an ATM. I spotted
Nancy's Pub, a place which my friend Nancy Monaghan, had asked me to stop into and raise a glass in her honor. A Donegal native, Nancy's is her favorite pub. I obliged with a quick dram of Whiskey.  I am sure that I looked a bit bedraggled and weather worn, as the Barman asked where I had been all this wet day. I gave him a short version of my adventure. He and the handful of other folk at the bar seemed to think me a bit nuts hiking in all of the stormy weather especially up on the Sliabh Liag. When I told him I only had one day to do what I had needed to do and bad weather wasn't going to stop me, he shook his head and said "Are you sure you're not a Donegal girl? You're wild enough to be one, indeed you are". I took it as a compliment even if his eyes were twinkling like he had just told the best joke.

Back at the B&B by
7:45 with a take-away meal of fried chicken and chips, I had my dinner in the sunroom. A phone call back home to check in with my folks gave me my much needed "parent" fix. Bernadette had laid a nice peat fire in the hearth for me. She brought me in a pot of tea and some biscuits. I settled in next to the fire with a good book and my journal. A great way to wind down from a most ambitious day!

Tomorrow...... Detours.....wrong turns....and changing plans....
Jun 21, 2009 @ 5:19 AM | 0 comment(s)

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